U.S. Senior Open, Girls Junior America’s Cup, first year following CGA/CWGA merger, TPC Colorado opening set for 2018
by Gary Baines
If you’re a fan of variety, of the new and different, you should like what awaits in Colorado golf in 2018.
There’s a return of major tour-level tournament golf to the Centennial State for the first time since 2014. There’s a joining of forces by two of the biggest golf associations in the state. Colorado will take its turn hosting many of the best girls players in the western U.S., Canada and Mexico. And, for the first time in nine years, a new 18-hole course will open in the state.
And those are just the highlights of what the new year will bring for the Colorado golf community.
Let’s take a closer look at all of the aforementioned and more:
— U.S. Senior Open: It’s been a while since Colorado hosted a big-time golf tournament — the kind that draws 100,000 people-plus over the course of a week. To be precise, the last one was in September 2014 when the BMW Championship — a FedExCup Playoff event on the PGA Tour — came to Cherry Hills Country Club. That tournament culminated quite a run for major golf events in Colorado in the wake of the demise of The International PGA Tour event that was conducted from 1986 through 2006. That run included:
— The 2008 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor
— The 2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links at Murphy Creek
— The 2009 Arnold Palmer Cup at Cherry Hills
— The 2010 Senior PGA Championship at Colorado Golf Club
— The 2010 Trans-Mississippi at Denver Country Club
— The 2011 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor
— The 2012 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills and CommonGround
— The 2013 Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club
— The 2014 BMW Championship at Cherry Hills
But it’s been a bit of a drought since, though tournaments like the men’s Pac-12 Conference Championships have paid a visit.
Suffice it to say the 2018 U.S. Senior Open will be a welcome change of pace for Colorado golf fans. The event, set for the week of June 25-July 1 at the East Course at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, will be the highlight for a year in which the resort will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. The tournament itself is scheduled for June 28-July 1.
The Senior Open will be the fourth tour major to have been hosted by The Broadmoor in the last 25 years, with the previous ones being the 1995 and 2011 U.S. Women’s Opens and the 2008 U.S. Senior Open. Overall, after the completion of this year’s championship, only Ohio (with six) will have hosted the U.S. Senior Open more times than Colorado (three, including the 1993 edition at Cherry Hills).
When The Broadmoor hosted the 2008 Senior Open, the event drew an announced 128,714 spectators for the week.
Among the players who will likely compete at The Broadmoor this year are World Golf Hall of Famers Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Vijay Singh, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Mark O’Meara and Tom Kite.
A qualifying tournament for the Senior Open will be held on Memorial Day (May 28) at The Broadmoor’s East Course.
— CGA, CWGA Join Forces: The agreement that led to the unification of the CGA and CWGA — two organizations that were formed more than 100 years ago — was the top story in Colorado golf in 2017. This year, after the two associations formally have become one (under the Colorado Golf Association name), the practical matters of merging will play out over the course of the year. The hope is that the combined membership of about 60,000 will be well-served by the consolidated association, which will be under the leadership of a board led by co-presidents Joe McCleary and Juliet Miner, who previously served as presidents of the CGA and CWGA, respectively, along with longtime CGA executive director Ed Mate and his staff.
The CGA, along with the Colorado PGA, Rocky Mountain Golf Course Superintendents, and course owners and operators figure to play a major role in paving the path to success for Colorado golf for decades to come.
— Girls Junior America’s Cup: The Girls Junior America’s Cup, which debuted in 1978, has long been a showcase for the best female junior players in the western U.S., Canada and Mexico. Among those who have competed in the event are World Golf Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa — a three-time champion (1997-99) — and fellow LPGA Tour veterans Brandie Burton, Pat Hurst, Dawn Coe-Jones, along with Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jill McGill.
Colorado has hosted the tournament just twice over the past 40 years — in 1982 and 2000, both at Eisenhower Golf Club at the Air Force Academy — but No. 3 is coming this summer as Hiwan Golf Club (left) in Evergreen will be the site for the proceedings July 25-27, with practice rounds set for July 23-24 and the opening ceremonies on July 24. Hiwan, the site for the Colorado Open from 1964 through ’91, has had its fair share of major junior events over the years, having hosted the 1965 U.S. Girls’ Junior, the 1976 U.S. Junior Amateur, the 2006 AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions and the 2011 boys Junior America’s Cup. The Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado will join Hiwan in a host role for the GJAC this year.
The Girls Junior America’s Cup features 18 four-person teams, each representing a state, country or region. The event includes both team and individual competitions. Colorado has won the GJAC team title once — in 1993 — with Heather Stock, Jennifer Kern, Ann Grooms and Jennifer McCormick playing for the victorious team and Kern earning the individual championship that year.
Some of the best girls players in Colorado history have competed for their state in the Girls Junior America’s Cup. That includes McGill, Jennifer Kupcho, Ashley Tait, Becca Huffer, Kelly Jacques, Hannah Wood, Somin Lee and Paige Spiranac.
Last year’s Colorado team finished sixth out of 18 teams, and three of the four representatives will be eligible to return: Hailey Schalk of Erie, the JGAC girls Player of the Year in 2017; Charlotte Hillary of Englewood and Lauren Lehigh of Loveland. Over the weekend in Arizona at the Silver Belle Championship, Hillary finished 22nd — out of a formidable 96-player field that included both college players and juniors. Hillary shot rounds of 75-73-72 there.
— TPC Colorado: There was a time not so long ago that a new course opening in Colorado would have been but a minor blip on the radar screen in any given year. After all, there were single years — in 1997 and ’99, for example — when 10 courses opened in the state. But that was before the Great Recession hit almost a decade ago.
Now, with the last new 18-hole course opening in Colorado being CommonGround in 2009, a new layout draws much more attention. TPC Colorado, a semi-private/high-end daily fee course in Berthoud, is expected to end the drought when it opens around June 1.
The course, which has sets of tees that range from 4,157 to 7,991 yards, has an agreement in place in which it will host a Web.com Tour event for at least five years, beginning in 2019. It will be the first time a tour-caliber event will be contested over multiple years in Colorado since The International departed after the 2006 tournament.
Meanwhile, the Colorado PGA will hold its top tournament, the Colorado PGA Professional Championship, at TPC Colorado Sept. 10-12 of this year.
While the U.S. Senior Open and the Girls Junior America’s Cup are some of the notable events set for 2018, it’s also worth mentioning one competition that won’t take place in 2018. The Colorado Cup matches, a Ryder Cup-style competiton between CGA/CWGA amateurs and Colorado PGA professionals that has been held every year since 1971, will see that annual streak end this year. The event has become biennial, meaning the next competition will be in 2019.
— Dates for Key Winter Events: While the statewide tournament golf season won’t begin in earnest until spring, there are several significant events in the interim that can serve to whet the appetite.
The Denver Golf Expo will be held Feb. 9-11 at the Denver Mart. The G4 Summit, which brings together many of the leaders in the Colorado golf industry to hear about and discuss key issues facing the game, is set for Feb. 28 at The Broadmoor. And the CGA’s Women’s Annual Meeting is scheduled for March 3 at the Inverness Hotel & Conference Center in Englewood.
— State Amateurs: Both of the top CGA men’s championships will be contested in the Denver metro area in 2018, with the CGA Match Play returning for the second straight year to the Club at Ravenna in Littleton (June 18-22) and Pinehurst Country Club in south Denver being the site for the CGA Amateur Aug. 2-5.
On the women’s side, the CGA Women’s Match Play is set for July 16-19 at The Fox Hill Club in Longmont, while the CGA Women’s Stroke Play is tentatively scheduled for June 19-21 at Black Bear Golf Club in Parker.
— CoBank Colorado Open Championships: The CoBank Colorado Open tournaments at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in northeast Denver fall into similar time slots as in the recent past, though the Colorado Open itself will be a week later than usual (July 26-29). The Senior Open is scheduled for May 30-June 1 and the Women’s Open for Aug. 29-31.
— Other Notable Events. Also on the schedule for 2018 are:
Qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open is planned for May 14 at The Ranch Country Club in Westminster. The national Women’s Open itself will be held earlier than normal, May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
The fourth annual AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior, which draws a formidable field from Colorado as well as players nationally and internationally, is set for June 4-7 at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster.
Qualifying for the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be held June 12 at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora. The first national championship in this event is set for July 12-15 at Chicago Golf Club.
It’s a rare treat when Denver Country Club hosts a state championship, but it will do so this year when the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado’s season-ending Tour Championship is contested at the historic course Oct. 6-7.